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Ask Brenda

Here's your chance to get some new ideas on how to solve a problem. Of course, you have to weigh all suggestions against your own personal situation, knowledge and experiences. Be sure to seek additional help from a professional if you need it. (See also our online agreement and disclaimer)

Dear Brenda,
I'm having a lot of trouble finding the right guy in my life. It seems like every relationship starts out real good, then ends up in disaster. A friend of mine said that might be related to how I grew up, but I can't see how. She says my mom was an alcoholic and that effects how I interact in relationships today. I never thought of her as an alcoholic, but she drank her wine every night and didn't have much to do with the rest of us after she started drinking. We did have a lot of other problems in our lives though, with money and my parent's fighting. When I think of an alcoholic, I still think of someone who can't function at all, so how could that have been my mom? I also don't see how this could effect my love life today. ---DeeAnn

Dear DeeAnn,
While I couldn't positively say your mom is an alcoholic, she could be. You may want to see the Do I Have a Problem questionnaire on alcohol and drugs. However, if she consistently drinks every night and it interferes with her relationships and her parenting, there is a good chance she is. You don't have to be rolling down drunk all the time to be considered an alcoholic. The old two-part definition often described in recovery groups is simple. It is "I drink and it causes problems in my life."

As you think about your mother's drinking, did it cause problems to you?

Growing up as the child of an alcoholic or drug abuser can affect you in many ways. It can be the birthing ground for problems with weight, shopping, boundaries, work, a continuous low-grade depression and puncturing your self-esteem. One of the primary areas it effects is relationships. Growing up with a substance-abusing parent can contribute to you thinking a particular way about yourself, which in turn influences who you choose to date.

Many times children adapt to different roles to find their place within this troubled environment. Chaos and denial become the norm. Therefore, when you are picking a partner, you may tend to disregard some potential warning signs because you are continuing to live the role you learned as a child, and have learned to accept chaos and denial as part of relationships.

If you thought of yourself as a caretaker or protector as a child, you are likely to continue this as an adult
. While your kindness is certainly an asset, if you do this without boundaries or self-care it can hurt you. Adult children who have been caretakers often are attracted to someone else who needs taking care of. Unfortunately, you may be choosing people who are putting the responsibility for their lives onto your shoulders.

If your role was to be the family clown to focus attention away from a tense situation, you may continue as an adult who puts on a happy face to avoid acknowledging a problem, yet inside withers away
. In an alcoholic home, you learn to tip-toe around the truth --often with the belief that you are protecting someone you love. Silence and avoidance is often the manner of confronting problems, instead of facing problems head-on. Ironically, it is only with a confrontation of the truth that the alcoholic has the potential to turn around his or her life. This is such an important topic, you'll see ongoing articles on this website. You can also benefit from several chapters in Body Sense, particularly the chapter Owning Your Hidden Losses. Take care.

Brenda Crawford-Clark, LMHC, LMFT, NCC
Author: Body Sense Balancing Your Weight and Emotions

If you'd like to ask Brenda a question, submit the form below. We appreciate all your questions but due to the volume of questions, not all will be answered. Letters are chosen for their subject matter and interest to others. Look for yours online.

Copyright Brenda Crawford-Clark 2001